Caterpillars crawl where Tim Denson's horses once grazed in northwest Georgia.
Big yellow Caterpillars, their steel blades slicing through the red clay, shoving anything green into a heap of dead vegetation.
Denson's land is in the path of a pipeline being constructed to carry natural gas through northwest Georgia, The Daily Tribune News reported.
The project has been met with resistance from Denson and other land owners, who say the company has demanded they sell or have their property taken through eminent domain.
Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., or Transco, is constructing the Dalton expansion project. It's a 112-mile pipeline transporting natural gas to the southeastern United States.
The company negotiates with property owners, and pays land owners in some cases, Transco spokesman Chris Stockton said. Other times it goes to court, as it did in Denson's case.
Stockton declined to comment specifically on Denson's case, but said "we negotiate easements with the affected property owner.
"Sometimes we are able to reach an agreement with the owner and when we are able to do so, we execute an easement agreement and they get paid right away," Stockton said.
"Landowners who aren't able to reach an agreement are able to go to court and ask a judge to determine the evaluation of the property and the amount of compensation due," he added. "We even have put money aside into a bond to assure the money is there to compensate landowners."
Denson refused the company's offer and didn't receive compensation, his attorney said.
Transco is a subsidiary of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners LP in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Atlanta-based Dogwood Enterprise Holdings Inc.
"Williams is committed to working with landowners, as well as local, state and federal agencies, to design and construct the project in a manner that minimizes environmental and landowner impacts," the company states on a website about the project.
Denson bought 10 acres off Five Forks-Euharlee Road in 2013, moved his landscaping business into an old barn that he had rehabbed and added living space for his family.
"I was going to raise cattle and quail," Denson said. "I'm in my early 50s, so I planned to retire there and have a place my children and grandchildren could enjoy."
Transco filed an eminent domain lawsuit in federal court in Atlanta and the judge allowed Transco to begin work. Denson's attorney, Don Evans, appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and won a limited stay. But as soon as the stay expired, Transco brought in heavy equipment ready to remove everything in the pipeline's footprint, including Denson's land, he said.
Soon bright orange temporary fencing marked a 60-foot-wide swath right through the middle of his property.
"Transco says everything will be fine," Denson said. "It will be like we were never here. Well, my trees are gone. The site where I wanted to build my retirement home can't be used because the law says nothing can be built within 100 feet of the pipeline. That means I have to build right next to the edge of my property and I don't want to build there. That wasn't the plan."
The project will extend from the existing Transco pipeline in Coweta County, southwest of Atlanta, and provide service to the Dalton area in northwest Georgia.